The first bike I’ll be featuring on Two-Wheel Tuesday is a 1975 Triumph T160 Trident. This was the last year of the vintage Triumph three-cylinder motorcycles that started production in 1968. I’ve actually owned two of these motorcycles, one when I was still in Colorado and one after I moved to California. They were identical, right down to color (both had the purple-and-white gas tank). The Triumph T160 Trident was a fabulous ending to a tragic story.
In its final year the Triumph T160 Trident finally offered a 5-speed transmission, front and rear disc brakes and an electric starter. It was fully competitive with the Honda CB750, the Japanese motorcycle that essentially killed the British bike industry. Unfortunately, the Honda offered all those features years before the Trident, and by the time the T160 arrived its parent company was already in dire financial straits. The Triumph Trident T160 is the epitome of too little, too late. A few hundred stragglers were produced in 1976, dubbed Triumph Cardinals and sold to Saudi Arabia to serve as police bikes, before Triumph halted all production of its three-cylinder motorcycles.
After owning two Triumph T160 Tridents I can confirm their excellent power, handling, stopping power and long-distance comfort. Two years in a row, during the 4th of July holiday, I rode one over 500 miles, from Denver to Grand Junction and back in the early 1990s. The T160’s worst traits were mediocre fuel efficiency, low (fixed) foot pegs that limited its otherwise excellent handling and the standard vintage British bike issues — a somewhat leaky engine and hard-to-synchronize triple carbs. Neither of those latter items were deal breakers during my experience with the bikes, but they were minor annoyances.
Rated at 58 horsepower and weighing almost 500 pounds the T160 was no speed demon. However, it’s 750cc three-cylinder configuration gave it both a wide torque band and relatively smooth operation past 6,000 rpm. Those trips to Grand Junction included a passenger while riding over Vail and Loveland Pass at over 11,000-foot elevation, yet the bike handled both trips without issue.
I sold my first T160 Trident to my brother when I moved to California in 1994. I bought a second one in 2002 and kept it until 2014. What ultimately sent the T160 packing was my desire for modern maintenance and braking capabilities, neither of which was terrible on the Trident but both were still well off 21st century standards. I still consider T160 Trident one of the best-looking and best-executed motorcycles from this era, but I don’t have the patience for its (or any vintage bike’s) idiosyncrasies at this point in my life. Among other things, I need modern-day, high-pressure fuel injection systems that can handle what passes for modern-day “gasoline” in 2018.